COMMUNITY HEROES: Johnson City man answers nation’s call and returns to help students succeed

Community Heroes

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) Growing in a poor family, Dr. Perry Counts strived for greatness, pushing for learning everything he could.

He entered the Navy to answer his nation’s call, during the Korean War, but it is what he did upon his return that was even more heroic.

He calls himself a country boy from East Tennessee.

“Perry Counts is an example of the American Dream,” Bryan Lauzon said.

A product of two hardworking farmers, Counts always pushed himself to receive the highest form of education.

“I had nothing. My parents were conisdered poor. Neither one had finished the second grade,” Dr. Counts explained. “My mother was especially smart. She could do anything, if she had a chance to, …but she didn’t have a chance.”

Because he saw his parents struggle, Counts instilled himself that failure was no option.

“I wanted to be an attorney,” he explained.

At the end of his first semester in law school, counts answered his nation’s call, and joined the Navy January 1st, 1953, during the Korean War.

“I chose to apply and go where I wanted to go. If I had been drafted, I think for sure I would have been in the infantry, in the Army, and I didn’t want that,” Dr. Counts said.

He spent four years at the USS Lake Champlain CVA-39 and two years in the reserve.

“It was the biggest aircraft there at the time,” Dr. Counts said.

Dr. Counts later had his doctorate in human resources, with a strong background in psychology and economics.

Bryan Lauzon explained, “Used his G.I. bill to come back to ETSU and go to college to get an education. He turned around and used that education and return to the community.”

Lauzon, who is the current commander for the American Legion Post 24, in Johnson City, started with giving back to students at ETSU, where he became the first student financial aid director.

“We gave out a ton of money. I was known as the “Money Man” and I’m the first director of student financial aid of the campus,” Dr. Counts joked.

He volunteered for many years for United Way, and was a previous commander for the Johnson City American Legion Post 24.

Lauzon said, “He just, continues to be a good advisor and counsel member to me and to the other members of the legion, and even though he’s well into his 90s, he’s still quite active and gets around and just a cheerful face to see. It’s always a matter of leaving alegacy of some kind, and certainly, Perry Counts has left a last impression.”

He is an example of success and known for returning the benefits back into his community. That is why he is our community hero.

If you know someone who makes our community a better place to live, we want to hear from you! Nominate them to be an ABC Tri-Cities Community Hero! Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to nominate them.

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